Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 6,2010

Volume 2, Number 11                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


As I was going-through some files this weekend, I noted that there may be a few images that you folks may have not seen. Here are some shots from Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium, Stafford, and even Thompson. It’s a pretty diverse selection – enjoy! Also, a big thanks goes-out to our friend George Meade for providing this week’s footage of the 1969 Thompson 500 won by the legendary Bugs Stevens. Once again, get-well wishes go-out to our pal & longtime racing writer, Pete Vanderveer who’s recovering from recent major surgery. Cards of cheer reach him at; Hilltop Rehabilitation Center, 25 Ford St., Ansonia, CT 06401-2635. Get Well Soon Peter!   Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Plainville, Stafford, Thompson, etc….     

Here we have a nice color action-shot of Plainville Stadium’s Pud Noble. There was a time at the Stadium’ when it was populated by scads of drivers like the colorful Pud – the place was really rockin’ when this image was captured by Phil Hoyt. It’s only been in recent years that people have realized just how-important Joe Tinty’s little Connecticut ¼-miler really-was. As I’ve stated previously, it was the first track I ever attended after I got my drivers license and was able to stray from my home base of the Waterford Speedbowl. I loved the place along with its colorful drivers and competition that was second-to-none! (Hoyt Photo).   

If there was ever a “King of Plainville Stadium” this guy was the man. See here is Dave Alkas, multi-time champion, and the Stadium’s all-time Modified winner. We ran a shot of this car a few weeks-ago, and our friend and celebrated auto racing writer Bones Bourcier stated that it bought-back a lot of memories (he just-about grew-up at Plainville before moving-on to the national scene). Dave is also one of the guys responsible for the wonderful “Plainville Stadium Reunion” that was staged last-summer – it was a great affair. Fittingly, Mr. Alkas was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. (Hoyt Photo).      

And here’s Dave Alkas (right), again, this-time celebrating a 1970’s-era win with longtime car-owner Roland Cyr (left). Not sure who the pretty, young trophy queen-is. It was a scene repeated over & over at The Stadium’ – these two guys were simply that hard to beat! (Hoyt Photo).      

This one captures yet-another New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late, great “Gentleman Dick” Watson at the Stadium’ of the early-70’s. Seen here running on the inside of Dave Alkas who’s piloting his Cyr-owned coach, it’s a particularly-special shot for yours-truly. I grew-up a big Dick Waston fan, and was really fortunate in getting to know him in later-years. As his nickname implied, he was a real class-act behind the wheel and a racer that other drivers could really-trust when running wheel-to-wheel with him. Dick and this car (owned & wrenched by Norm Kies), took a lot of checkers during those great mid-week open shows at Plainville. (Hoyt Photo)

Not unlike all short tracks, the action at Plainville Stadium could get pretty wild n’ woolly. This one captures Stadium stalwart Don Spazano climbing from the controls of his coach after a feature race incident with the 58 of Dick Thibeault. Don was one of the top-names at Tinty’s place, experiencing a long & successful career at the much-missed little Connecticut ¼-miler. (Hoyt Photo).  

If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, you probably already know who this NEAR Hall of Fame member is. Seen here is Rhode Island’s Fred DeSarro, simply one of the best New England Modified drivers in history, period. Before his untimely death following a horrendous crash at the Thompson Speedway in October of 1978, he’d captured the NASCAR National Modified Championship in 1970 along with several other significant wins including Stafford’s inaugural Spring Sizzler in 1972. He also notched the Stafford title that season, repeating in 1976. Also proficient at Thompson, he won four consecutive championships starting in 1974, taking down an incredible 14 feature that-year. The same season, he took the prestigious Race of Champions at Trenton, New Jersey – then “THE” event for the Modified troops. This one captures Freddie at Stafford in the legendary “Ole Blue” Coupe owned by fellow Hall of Famer, the late Len Boehler. (Dugas Photo).     

Both NEAR Hall of Fame members, driver Ronnie Bouchard and car-owner Bob Johnson made a formidable duo. Years-before his pairing with Johnson, he entered his first race as a fourteen year old teenager in 1963 in Brookline, New Hampshire. Winning his first feature event the same year at Norwood Arena, he eventually scored over 200 Modified victories and multiple championships all over New England, many in the Johnson-wrenched Pinto he’s seen here with at Stafford. In the early 1980’s, he recorded 160 career Winston Cup (now known as the Sprint Cup Series), starts with 3 poles, 1 win, and 60 top ten finishes to his credit. (Dugas Photo).           

We really like this early-70’s Thompson Speedway shot of Jerry Glaude, a fine driver that centered the majority of his racing endeavors on action at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Take a look at this car – it was truly an era when builders could take artistic liberties with design. However, the days of Pintos, Vegas, and all the other “cookie cutter” rides were right-on the horizon. (Dugas Photo).       

They called him “Mr. Modified” and it was for good-reason. Whenever the late Ray Hendrick showed-up at a Modified event in the potent Tant-Mitchell Coupe his fellow competitor’s took-notice in a big way. Particularly successful at taking the big-money races, Hendrick and this car were responsible for a LOT of victories in the 1960s & 70’s. A Virginia native, this was one Southerner that routinely tamed the best that New England Modified fields had to offer. (Grady Photo).

Here we have an oldie of the late “Hammerin Hank” Stevens captured at Thompson behind the controls of an early “Freddie’s TV”-sponsored Coupe. Stevens scored many wins all over New England during a career that included competition in both Modifieds and Midgets. Like the aforementioned Glaude, Stevens was really-good at the Speedbowl and stands-out as one of the tracks most-proficient early chauffeurs. (Dugas Photo).

 

1969 Thompson Speedway 500 Part 1

 
 

 

 
 

1969 Thompson Speedway 500 Part 2

 
 

 

 
     

That's it for this week. Email me at:

 
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